Review of Country Gold (dir. Mickey Reece)

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By Neil Cadieux 

Artwork by Mary Martin (she / her)

This review is a part of our Glasgow Film Festival review series. The Film Festival is running between 01/03/23-12/03/23, don’t miss out and go and see some incredible new films.

Country Gold is Mickey Reece’s second attempt at creating a new kind of music biopic. His first venture in this new form of cinematic Americana came with Mickey Reece’s Alien, an existential exploration of the messianic nature of fame, and the existence of extraterrestrials, framed narratively through Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s later years of marriage. Returning to offer a similarly worried and esoteric mission statement on American pop-culture, Country Gold follows the rising Oklahoma country singer Troyal Bruxe (a stand-in for Garth Brooks, played by Reece himself) who, in the burgeoning years of his music career, receives a letter from American country musician and singer-songwriter George Jones, proposing that the pair meet in Nashville. 

Troyal’s sense of self-perception, and engagement with his own celebrity status, changes after his encounter with George Jones in Nashville. The script offers a wealth of internalised debates on the nature of the eventually meaningless ‘legend’ moniker that Bruxe and Jones place upon themselves. This is captured on screen by breaking the fourth wall with Bruxe’s wife narrating over sections of the film, she disputes the ‘legend’ status Bruxe attributes to Jones, telling the audience that the ‘real legend’ of country music is Kenny Rogers. This narration sets up a gentle meditation on both the radical successes and slow, agonising failures in the music industry. 

Reece treats us to an uncompromising analysis on the effects of fame; the success story is told through Bruxe’s no-nonsense, clean-cut ‘good boy’ image, and the painful failure is shown via a washed-up, debaucherous portrayal of George Jones. The performances of both characters add to this wonderful contrast of fortune, with Reece’s awkward and bumbling portrayal of Bruxe, compared to Ben Hall’s irritable and shouty Jones working as a phenomenal tonal double-act. Both performers exude gravitas when the script demands it, balancing this alongside a wealth of isolated laughs in the film’s comedic moments. This double act also invites brief flirtations with the existential themes of Reece’s previous work, with Jones offering Troyal wisdom on complacency, and how it can lead to  suicidal levels of self-loathing.

The melodramatic aspects of Reece’s previous films were often their weakest stylistic link. However, Mickey Reece, and co-writer John Slevidge managed to pen an exceptionally effective melodrama that shows two polar sides of fame. Whilst the film’s engagement with experimental sound and Claymation is original, and distinctive of Reece’s gonzo style, it did feel sparingly applied, and often self-censored at points in the name of creating superfluous tonal consistency. 

Country Gold’s world premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival will no doubt shock audiences with its admittedly inconsistent pacing and truly frightening ending. However, it does offer a distinctly more palatable, and conventional slice of Mickey Reece’s style, working as an effective introduction to his varied filmography. Hopefully, this premiere of Reece’s most ‘normal’ film will further establish the style, and presence of his work within global experimental cinema.


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